Sunday, November 17, 2013

Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY, Celebration for the Turkeys

This weekend I traveled to Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, for their annual Celebration for the Turkeys, a time to celebrate compassionate living, spend time with animals, and honor our special feathered friends, the turkeys!

Farm Sanctuary is a shelter for more than 500 rescued farm animals. These animals are given a life free from the conditions of the factory farms, and they also help to educate people and enable them to get to know the animals as the wonderful, unique, special beings they are. Visitors go home with the inspiration and knowledge to live a compassionate life.

The setting: beautiful Watkins Glen, NY, in the Finger Lakes region on Lake Seneca.

Here is Thunder grazing peacefully in the field. He is a big bull! We don't usually see animals this size because they are slaughtered very young, veal cows practically in infancy, and even dairy cows don't live more than 4 or 5 years until their poor bodies are spent from continuous cycles of pregnancy and lactation.

Enjoying the sunny November day.

I was surprised to find out pigs are so curious and interactive! Since we visited the cows during their "lunch time", they were, for the most part, uninterested in us, but the pigs were fascinated!!!! Who are you? What do you look like and smell like? Do you have anything for me?

Goats in coats!!!!! Elderly goats lose body fat, so they need protection from the cold.

Here is Michael with a shelter visitor. You can see how gentle and affectionate he is.

I loved the sheep! When you approached them, they ran away, but if you stood still, and even knelt down, they would gradually come near you to be petted.

Lots and lots of chickens everywhere!

This is Turpentine. This beautiful bird was destined for the dinner plate, but fate brought him here instead. He is one of the most popular animals because he is so photogenic. He also likes to have his picture taken, and has a reputation for photo bombing many pics!

The moment we have been waiting for!!!! Time to feed the turkeys!!! They had special plates of pumpkin, cranberries, greens, and squash. They loved the cranberries, the squash, not so much.

Here is Tulip enjoying some greens. She is de-beaked and de-toed, like so many commercially bred birds, so eating becomes a little more difficult. This food is specially prepared for her and the other turkeys.

The children love Tulip!!! Most importantly, they go home after interacting with and getting to know live animals, and they learn to live compassionate, sensitive lives. These animals are educators!

See how they love the cranberries?

I'm chllin' here in the sun, because I'm a pig, and that's how I roll.

Critters come in all shapes and sizes!

The pigs get to celebrate too! We smashed the pumpkins for them to enjoy as a treat!

Oh they loved the pumpkins!!!

Man, this is goooood!!!!

I'm just hanging out here eating pumpkins with my friends. Don't come near my pumpkin.


This is Ari. I got to spend quite a bit of time with him, petting him while he rested in the sun and chewed on some grass. Ari's mother was a "spent" dairy cow who gave birth to him prematurely while she was taken for slaughter. Someone found him in a heap and thought he was a jacket!!!! Here he is, thriving and growing, with a second chance at life.

More sheep!!! It was so much fun to observe these gentle animals with such strong bonds with each other.

After our shelter time, we had a fantastic vegan dinner. Susie Coston of Farm Sanctuary , spoke to us about turkeys. They are artificially bred to be several times their natural weight, and as a result, have many health problems. Turkeys will try to maintain their natural behavior, and the young turkeys (who haven't been de-toed), will try to roost in the trees, It's not safe for them because of their unnaturally large size, so someone has to climb the tree and bring them down! The turkeys can't do this for long, because they quickly grow too large to roost. They are sensitive animals with unique personalities, they can be very friendly and affectionate towards humans, and they are intelligent birds and excellent parents to their young. Gene Baur, president of Farm Sanctuary,  spoke to us about the history and mission of Farm Sanctuary, and Zoe Weil, president of the Institute for Humane Education, told us that we are all educators with our own lives. She encouraged us to be more like a warm, welcoming campfire and not like a raging forest fire in our approach! She urged a compassionate, respectful, inspiring, non-demanding approach to our activism.

It was a wonderful weekend, lots of time spent bonding with these beautiful animals, fantastic vegan Thanksgiving food, and inspiring and motivating talks.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


At 12:24 PM, Blogger Racn4acure said...

Very interesting and informative, Anne. It is great that such a shelter exists. It is pretty sad how domestic animals are treated, especially on factory farms where delivery to market at the cheapest possible price is everything. There are lot less inhumane ways to do things but people will have to pay more. I love eggs but have recently learned that egg (and pork) production is especially inhumane. Art

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Hi Art, thanks, glad you found it interesting! Yes, I'm glad such shelters exist but wish it weren't necessary. Many of the standard operating procedures of factory farms are incredibly cruel to maximize profit, such as de-beaking and de-toeing so turkeys can be packed closer together without injuring each other. This was a very educational visit!

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Racn4acure said...

Google "Polyface Farms." It is in Western Virginia and a place I am interested in checking out. They have a very interesting philosophy of agrigculture and although their animals do end up being killed, the process of raising them and allowing them to live a more natural domesticated life seems much more humane and sustainable.

Turkeys are big business in Virgina and they do indeed have miserable lives. I wonder if people had more education about some of the stuff that goes on, like the de-beaking, would be willing to pay more for meat and produce if they could be guaranteed that the animals were treated more humanely?

I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Anne. Art

At 9:54 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Hi Art, yes, I've heard of Polyface Farms, they were in a documentary I watched. I can't remember which one, might have been Food, Inc. Fascinating place!

Yes, I think it's true that people don't really know everything that happens to farm animals. I had never heard that turkeys were also "de-toed". I'm still hopeful that if people had a little more awareness of how easy it is to have healthy and tasty meat free foods they might be willing to make some changes. One little step at a time! :-)

At 9:55 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you as well Art!!!!

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Racn4acure said...

I did not know about "de-toe-ing" turkeys either, although I did know that they typically have a pretty miserable life if they are in a mass production environment. Everything is looked on as a commodity, and how to get it to the market a tiny bit cheaper so that it will outsell the competition. It is too bad that we humans can't think a little more about where our food comes from, and the fact that meat is not just little shrink wrapped packages. More education and awareness.

Anyhow, I really liked your article and photos, as usual. Art

At 11:18 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Hi Art, Thanks! Glad you liked the photos. It was quite a fun trip, my Thanksgiving treat to myself. Yes, education and awareness is key. Let people make informed choices.


At 8:56 PM, Blogger Jenna Gill said...

Hi Anne, I have been thinking about attending this year's celebration for the turkey's at Watkins glen farm sanctuary. Is it hard to get tickets? When do they usually go on sale? Do you get to spend time with all of the animals or is it too crowded with people there for the event? Thanks for your help!

At 10:48 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Hi Jenna,
Thanks for writing. You absolutely should go, you will love it! I honestly don't remember when I bought my ticket, I'm going to guess September (?), but you might want to email Farm Sanctuary so you don't miss it. I didn't buy my ticket immediately, but probably within a couple of weeks (or sooner). I do know it sells out, so if you know you want to go, I would recommend buying a ticket as soon as they are available. I did get to spend time with the animals.There were a lot of people and it was crowded, but the place is large enough that I spent time with the cows, and the turkeys and chickens, a little less time with the pigs (that's a smaller area and they limit the number of people in there at one time so as not to overwhelm them), also the sheep and the goats. I plan on going there soon on a regular guided tour, but those only last an hour. For the Celebration for the Turkeys, you are there almost all afternoon. And it really is lovely meeting other animal activists. The dinner in the evening is fantastic, and I always love spending time with new friends, especially ones that share similar values. So, yes, I would highly recommend going!


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